I took it on the road, baby. And the track. And the mud. I drove all over the place and discovered a few things about me and cars and driving. You might figure out a few things about yourself too.
Last week, I jumped out of bed (or crawled out because it was early) to make my way to Summit Point, West Virginia, home of the Summit Point Motorsports Park. Why would a girl like me head to a motorsports park in West Virginia?
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) invited me to preview their 2016 lineup in a way that challenged my newfound sense of adventure. Not only were they bringing their lineup of the newest Fiats, Chryslers, Dodges, and Jeeps, but they were BRINGING IT… in the form of top performance models and off road monsters. The only struggle I had was figuring out where to start.
The street drive was the safest way to start. Grab a vehicle that looks interesting and go! We were given a few mile course that wound through the farm country of Summit Point. Our only caution was to mind the speed limit as the cops and the neighbors didn’t take kindly to speed demons in the neighborhood.
I set out looking for the coolest, fastest, and/or the most unusual vehicle I could find. Or the biggest. So I started with the Ram Power Wagon 2500.
This truck was big, loud, and fast. And also towered over me. Luckily the running boards made getting in and out pretty easily. On to the next – the Dodge Durango.
I wasn’t too excited about a run of the mill SUV but was talked into it when I found out it had a V8 Hemi. This SUV made me feel tough and fast even though the exterior seemed like it would fit in nicely in a parking lot of a shopping center.
Then it was time for fast but cute. So I hopped in the Fiat Abarth 500 – a small Cabrio outfitted for performance.
While it was cold and sprinkling, I couldn’t resist the urge to put the top down. It wasn’t the speed that enthralled me but the ability to go from a sunroof to topless (car, that is) to a convertible with doorframes and windows intact meaning my hair might actually stay intact.
So what next? I went after the lonely little cargo van sitting all by itself and fell in love with the Ram ProMaster City. While I’m sure they don’t intend it for the suburban market, this is my idea of a minivan.
You want headroom? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HEADROOM. Or the cargo space or the funky sliding door handles. But my favorite thing was the adjustable mirrors. I got a kick out of the throwback to manually adjusted mirrors.
So I wouldn’t be shamed too much for choosing a cargo van when there were high performance vehicles available, I headed next to the track.
While some have a need for speed, I’ll admit I was scared to death to head to the racetrack. They had vehicles with over 700 hp available for us to drive and even though there were professional driving instructors available, the wet track didn’t ease my nerves.
But I’m over 40 and still looking for adventure in life. I knew that if I didn’t put on that helmet and face my fears head on, I’d regret it. And when would I ever have a chance to drive on a racetrack again?
At my husband’s urging, I suited up and settled into the Dodge Challenger Hellcat waiting for my turn.
Bob, the instructor, joined me in the passenger seat and casually asked if I’d like instruction to which I said YES PLEASE. I warned him I was scared and that he might have to urge me to go faster. I just wanted to make sure we did it in a safe way.
We took the Challenger out for three laps: the out lap (getting familiar with the course), the hot lap (put the pedal to the metal), and the cool down lap (to cool the brakes for the next victim). I didn’t break any records but I did hit 107 mph and didn’t wreck the car (unlike someone who took the Dodge Viper out for a lap and, well, it didn’t end well).
With the track drive behind me, there was only one area left to conquer.
Off Road Drive
Some people have a need for speed. Apparently, I have a need for mud. THIS is where I felt most comfortable and it wasn’t just because of the luxurious Jeep Cherokee I started out in.
We took the off road vehicles truly off road. Gullies, standing water, thick mud – none of it was too much for the off road settings. And it was FUN. I knew I was in my element when they kept telling me good job.
But it was when one of the Jeep brand managers rode with me that I really felt at ease. He convinced me that the Jeep Renegade was the next vehicle to put to the test, mainly because I was skeptical of its off-roading capabilities. I knew he wanted to prove me wrong.
He told me that I just needed to feel which way the vehicle wanted to go and follow the natural movements. It must have been “the Force” because I got it. I used and abused those vehicles and loved every minute of it.
While most people went straight for the track, I eased my way into everything. I pushed myself to not only enjoy the vehicle but to enjoy the limits of the vehicles. After a full day of drizzle and adrenaline, it’s pretty safe to say that FCA has a very sunny 2016 ahead.